The Edwards aquifer in south-central Texas is a productive and important water resource. Several large springs issuing from the aquifer are major discharge points, popular locations for recreational activities, and habitat for threatened and endangered species. Discharges from Comal and San Marcos Springs, the first and second largest spring complexes in Texas, are used as thresholds in groundwater management strategies for the Edwards aquifer. Comal Springs is generally understood to be supplied by predominantly regional groundwater flow paths; the hydrologic connection of San Marcos Springs with the regional flow system, however, is less understood. During November 2008–December 2010, a hydrologic and geochemical investigation of San Marcos Springs was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the San Antonio Water System. The primary objective of this study was to define and characterize sources of discharge from San Marcos Springs. During this study, hydrologic conditions transitioned from exceptional drought (the dry period, November 1, 2008 to September 8, 2009) to wetter than normal (the wet period, September 9, 2009 to December 31, 2010), which provided the opportunity to investigate the hydrogeology of San Marcos Springs under a wide range of hydrologic conditions. Water samples were collected from streams, groundwater wells, and springs at and in the vicinity of San Marcos Springs, including periodic (routine) sampling (every 3–7 weeks) and sampling in response to storms. Samples were analyzed for major ions, trace elements, nutrients, and selected stable and radiogenic isotopes (deuterium, oxygen, carbon, strontium). Additionally, selected physicochemical properties were measured continuously at several sites, and hydrologic data were compiled from other USGS efforts (stream and spring discharge). Potential aquifer recharge was evaluated from local streams, and daily recharge or gain/loss estimates were computed for several local streams. Local rainfall and recharge events were compared with physicochemical properties and geochemical variability at San Marcos Springs, with little evidence for dilution by local recharge.
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USGS Numbered Series
Origin and characteristics of discharge at San Marcos Springs based on hydrologic and geochemical data (2008–10), Bexar, Comal, and Hays Counties, Texas